Listening to the stakeholders

The Keep Safe Team had the third focus group in late May with sex workers at PACE. One of our newer team members, Anita, co-facilitated the focus group along with Saara, who was involved in the first two focus groups. Two demo devices were introduced to the group – one from the first round of focus groups that most folks seemed to like the best, and a new one that was purchased in response to the first focus group’s feedback. The feedback from this third focus group was mostly positive. Discussions concentrated on details around frequency of usage, how it would be carried on person, and charging the device. In order to feel like we have adequate buy-in from sex worker communities the Keep Safe Team will be researching other devices that have features more aligned to what focus group participants wanted and we will be conducting more rigorous testing of the devices.

Additionally, one of the focus group members recommended connecting with organizations and groups that service male and transgendered sex workers (such as, Health Initiative for Men- HIM) as well as Aboriginal groups. We greatly appreciate our current connections in the sex worker community in Vancouver and are making efforts to bring in other sex worker stakeholders.

We continue to welcome feedback and thoughts on our Facebook page, as well as donations via our PayPal donate tab.

In Solidarity,

The Keep Safe Team

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The fight for sex workers’ rights and safety is far from over

Back in February of this year, the Canadian Supreme Court struck down three of the countries prostitution laws setting an example for the human rights of sex workers in Canada. There have been discussions about which prostitution model the federal government should adopt – anywhere from the Swedish Model to the New Zealand Model. Right now the federal government is rewriting the prostitution laws and will likely come to a decision by the end of this year. What this will look like for sex workers in Canada has many advocates (even across the globe) voicing their opposition to the Swedish Model, and that this would create an environment of increased danger and unsafe working conditions. Under this model, the clients of sex workers would be punished.

Our team will be completing its final focus group with sex workers in the Downtown Eastside later this month. We will be finalizing device selection with the feedback from the focus group participants in combination with the feedback from the focus groups last summer. We are grateful to our community stakeholders, WISH and PACE, for being incredibly supportive and patient with us over the last year.

Speaking of the Keep Safe team, we welcomed a new team member, Anita Chang, earlier this year, and fondly said farewell to Tim Jen (although, we hope Tim will continue to periodically provide his excellent insight and bookkeeping skills when we need them!). We are incredibly excited about this year and look forward to the momentum around sex workers’ rights in Canada and around the globe!

All sex workers deserve to have their choices respected and be able to work safely, without fear of violence, discrimination and social stigma.

In Solidarity,

The Keep Safe Team

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March 3rd, International Sex Workers’ Rights Day

From NSWP, “This day’s history goes back to 2001, when over 25,000 sex workers gathered in India for a festival despite efforts from prohibitionist groups who tried to prevent it taking place by pressuring the government to revoke their permit.  The event was organised by Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee, a Calcutta based group that has over 50,000 sex worker members, and members of their communities.  Sex worker groups across the world have subsequently celebrated 3rd March as an annual, international event, as International Sex Workers’ Rights Day.”

This year a pair of dancers came together and organized a fantastic benefit for a Portland (Oregon)-based sex worker group, Sex Worker’s Outreach Coalition (SWOC). The event was a blast for all who performed and attended! All proceeds went to SWOC and throughout the evening many people expressed how wonderful this was and that it should be done every year.

The team at Keep Safe Initiative celebrates these and all the activities that raise awareness about sex workers’ rights as human rights on this day and every day!

In Solidarity,

The Keep Safe Team

You cannot make yourself feel something you do not feel, but you can make yourself do right in spite of your feelings.
Pearl S. Buck

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Season’s Greetings!

A healthy, progressive, and safe Season’s Greetings to everyone! It is our hope at Keep Safe Initiative that more steps to enhance safety and include sex workers and those engaged in trading sex in cooperative organizing and dialogue will happen in the year to come.

We are always accepting donations for the project, and if you would like more information please contact us at keepsafeinitiative@gmail.com.

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou

In Solidarity,

The Keep Safe Team

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Listening has never been more critical

Hey there Supporters, Friends, and Allies,

Sorry to be out of touch for a few months. After our focus groups wrapped up (June) and the team convened in Vancouver in July most of of were busy traveling or settling back down in our respective geographical locations. After our last team meeting in August we decided to look into alternative device options based on what the focus group participants had said they would like to see in a mobile safety device. It is very much up to them what is useful and may produce an option for safer working situations. So, we have those en route right now, and once they are in our hands we’ll have to test them out before piloting them.

On other exciting news, we are an officially recognized public entity with our own organization registered name! DTES Street Safety Society. However, we will continue to use Keep Safe in media and other communications. The name is for formal purposes, and hopefully not to confuse people!

Stay tuned, and happy autumn everyone!

The Keep Safe Team

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A note to wrap up August

Dearest supporters,

As the summer winds to an end and we transition into the autumn season, Keep Safe Initiative is also transitioning into a new and more vibrant stage. Although summers tend to be full of vacations, holidays, time spent with friends and loved ones, our Keep Safe Team continues to be committed to seeing the project through. And all great things require time and attention to detail, and as with this project, critical involvement of the people who this device will affect the lives of most.

So, we just wanted to keep you all in the loop and share a little article that was recently written for Pink and Black Magazine, which mentions Keep Safe Initiative along with other safety apps and devices! These little reminders that Keep Safe Initiative is still on the minds of folks definitely keeps our moral and spirits up, and encourages us to take the extra step forward for sex workers in the Downtown Eastside, and the safety of sex workers everyone.

In Solidarity,

The Keep Safe Team

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1st Annual Keep Safe Retreat!

Hello everyone!

Two weekends ago our team decided to start an annual retreat, because we’ve been all working so hard on Keep Safe as well as other school and work commitments. We all met in Vancouver, because everyone except me (Vanessa) lives up there. But now that I’m a Portlander, it’s a lot easier to be present for Keep Safe activities! Thankfully, almost everyone was in town that weekend, except Tim and Conrad, who are out and about in the world doing fun stuff, but still fully connected to us and the project whilst traveling.

We didn’t really want this weekend to be about “work,” but to get a chance to get to know each other a little better and just relax. Isn’t that what summer is all about? We had a lovely picnic right down by the water; the weather was gorgeous. When I arrived, Kyle and I met with Darcie Bennett, from Pivot Legal Society, to talk about some confidentiality and liability concerns from the focus groups. She was so helpful and we will be working with them to continue to ensure the safety of those who will use the devices. The first thing I said I wanted to do when we wrapped up with Darcie was go to the DTES! It was an extremely colorful neighborhood, and I got to see some quite interesting activity– nothing I’ve seen in any U.S. city I’ve done outreach work in. I was able to see where Insite, the safe injection site, was located, WISH Drop-in Centre, PACE, and several SROs (single room occupancy) programs. I loved being able to know about this area for so long and the edgy programs there and to be able to be there and put things in context was awesome!

This weekend was truly about connecting with everyone. There’s only so much you can get from people while wired in; you really feel connected and part of something great when you all meet in person. For me, it was like meeting old friends, people I’ve known for a long time. We all expressed our gratitude to each other (over and over again!), and despite all of our very busy schedules, we are 110% committed to moving forward with gusto!

We’ve all worked so hard together, and gratefully built a solid team of volunteers. I love them like family, because they care about my family of sex workers.

“There is no limit to the amount of good a man can do, as long as he does not care who takes the credit.” Sunday-Bolorunduro Awoniyi, Nigerian Politician

In Solidarity,

The Keep Safe Team

photo (1)

 

(Saara, Isabel, Stacey, Vaness, Kyle (and Puccini), Cai) Not pictured: Tim and Conrad

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A feature of environmental magnitude

Features are important. What else can this device do to make my life easier or safer? Many of us who have smartphones know how important device features, ergonomics, feel, and durability are in the device we choose. We asked similar questions to our focus group teams on the demoed device features and functions. Here are some of their comments and feedback:

– could it have a camera that could discreetly take pictures of johns, license plates and location?

– how waterproof is it for working in the rain? Could we perhaps get a cover for it to protect it from rain, and cover the lights for discretion and avoid accidental pushes? And also to customize

– is there a feature to cancel accidental calls?

– is there an identifier for knowing that the call was received?

Wow! What incredible insight and valuable questions that we likely would not have really thought about had we not engaged out focus group teams! So, our back-end team has a good amount of work to do and try to address the best we can these very valuable points and realities before launching these devices.

Our team will be meeting (all in person finally!) next weekend with members from our community partners, so Stay Tuned!

And thank you!!!

The Keep Safe Team

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Looks aren’t everything

We would like to share the feedback with our followers and supporters because we feel that the women who participate in these focus groups are as much a part of the Keep Safe team as the team members. And their feedback is valuable in many contexts and applications for anyone who is a sex worker or an ally.

Since the start of our little project we’ve been contacted several times from various businesses, individuals, and other organizations requesting to know what the device will look like. We could never give people a direct answer for several reasons. Well, first of all, we don’t exactly know that for sure. Once we raised a certain amount of funds we purchased several different devices to test out in order to pick the best one or two to present to sex workers. Thankfully, we were lucky to have purchased a device that works with no problems and were able to use that as a demo during focus group sessions.

One question that we posed to focus group team members and that we really wanted feedback on was the appearance and aesthetics of the device itself. A concern that many women posed was if the device is made public through media or marketing how will that impact the safety of sex workers. Early on with the project, we were fortunate to have a lot of media interest in Keep Safe which resulted in a lot of positive support, but also resistance from other parties to work with us. Thankfully, we were able to mend some damaged bridges and increase collaboration despite some preemptive media attention.

Other comments/concerns from the focus group team members included:

  • Concerns over flashing lights that could be confused with a recorder or draw unwanted attention
  • Creating a cover (preferably waterproof, if the device is not already) to protect it and conceal any light distractions, or make it look more like a makeup/cosmetic item
  • Concern, again, with the device possibly being published in the media and other people in their circles/buildings would know they were carrying it, and may consider them to be a “spy” or “narc” as they are able to discreetly call law enforcement
  • One person asked if, as an organization, we would put media attention (and thus possible funding) as a higher priority than the safety of sex workers

These are extremely relevant questions and concerns that we would not have thought about without the input and involvement of the focus group team members. Our goal is to address these and other information that came out of the focus group sessions, and our objective is driven by these team members.

Stayed tuned next week for some other enlightening feedback from our focus group team members!

In Solidarity,

The Keep Safe Team

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Focusing through the focus groups

Last week our local DTES teammates, Saara and Stacey, facilitated two focus groups at PACE and WISH Drop-in Centre with sex workers. Both of the groups had a lot to say and expressed very helpful insight, questions, and support for the mobile safety device. Overall, the tone of the sessions was positive, constructive and in some moments very grateful. This was reflected in a statement made by one woman after the group had completed: “You don’t know how much this means to me.”

Our team is going to re-group and mesh out some of the comments and questions from the focus groups in order to move forward.  We have one more focus group planned and will be scheduling that with another sex worker-led group in Vancouver after addressing some of the comments from these two groupsAs always, Keep Safe is driven by and for sex workers.

Additionally, we were awarded a grant from AMUSE based at McGill University, which we are incredibly grateful for. Their grant and all the other donations we’ve received thus far are making big strides towards fully funding our pilot.

Finally, as tradition, we leave you with this quote:

I never did anything alone. Whatever was accomplished in this country was accomplished collectively. —Golda Meir

In Solidarity,

The Keep Safe Team

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